USA Student Visa Guide

USA Student Visa Guide

USA Student Visa | Overview | Eligibility | Documents Required | Fee | Interview | Information

Hundreds of thousands of people come to the United States from around the world to study and improve their skills. Numerous programs provide a wide variety of learning opportunities. Students interested in studying in the United States must be admitted to a U.S. school or university before starting the visa process.

1. Over View of Student Visa of USA:

Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a non immigrant visa for temporary stay, or an immigrant visa for permanent residence. You must have a student visa to study in the United States. Your course of study and the type of school you plan to attend determine whether you need an F-1 visa or an M-1 visa.

To enter the United States to attend:

You need the following visa category:

University or college


High School

Private elementary school



Another academic institution, including a language training program

Vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution, other than a language training program


Students cannot travel on the Visa Waiver Program or with Visitor Visas

Citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) participating countries who intend to study cannot travel on the VWP or on visitor (B) visas, except to undertake recreational study as part of a tourist visit. Students must travel to the United States with student (F-1 or M-1) visas. For more information on the VWP, see Visa Waiver Program.


For short periods of recreational study, a Visitor (B) visa can be used

Enrollment in a short recreational course of study, which is not for credit toward a degree or academic certificate, is permitted on a visitor (B) visa. Learn more about Visitor Visas.Study leading to a U.S. conferred degree or certificate is not permitted on a visitor (B) visa, even if it is for a short duration. For example, distance learning which requires a period of time on the institution’s U.S. campus requires an F-1 visa.

Student Acceptance at a SEVP Approved School

Before you can apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for an F or M student visa, you must first apply to and be accepted by a SEVP approved school. Visit the Department of State Education USA website to learn about educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate study, opportunities for scholars, admissions, and more. You can also visit the DHS Study in the States school search page to search for SEVP-certified schools.

When you are accepted by the U.S. school you plan to attend, you will be enrolled in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). You must pay the SEVIS I-901 Fee. The U.S. school will provide you with a Form I-20 to present to the consular officer when you attend your visa interview. If your spouse and/or children intend to reside with you in the United States while you study, they must obtain individual Form I-20s, but they do not pay the SEVIS fee. Visit the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) website to learn more about SEVIS and the SEVIS I-901 Fee.

2. Documents Required for Student Visa:


Gather Required Documentation

Gather and prepare the following required documents before your visa interview:

  1. Passport valid for travel to the United States – Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond your period of stay in the United States (unless exempt by country-specific agreements). If more than one person is included in your passport, each person who needs a visa must submit a separate application.

  2. Non immigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160 confirmation page

  3. Application fee payment receipt, if you are required to pay before your interview

  4. Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. If the photo upload fails, you must bring one printed photo in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.

  5. Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status, Form DS-2019 – A SEVIS- generated Form DS-2019 is provided to you by your program sponsor after the sponsor enters your information in the SEVIS system. All exchange visitors, including their spouses and minor children, must be registered in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Each person receives a separate Form DS-2019.

  6. Training/Internship Placement Plan, Form DS-7002 – In addition to the Form DS 2019, participants in the J-1 Trainee and Intern categories require Form DS-7002 (based on Box 7 on Form DS-2019). Learn more about the Trainee and Intern programs.

Legal Rights and Protections

You must read the Legal Rights and Protections pamphlet to learn about your rights in the United States and protection available to you. Review this important pamphlet before applying for your visa.

Additional Documentation May Be Required

Review the instructions for how to apply for a visa on the website of the embassy or consulate where you will apply. Additional documents may be requested to establish if you are qualified. For example, additional requested documents may include evidence of:

  1. The purpose of your travel;

  2. Your intent to depart the United States after your travel;

  3. Your ability to pay all travel costs; and/or

  4. Other documents the consular officer may request.

Evidence of your employment and/or your family ties may be sufficient to show the purpose of your travel and your intent to return to your home country. If you cannot cover all the costs for your travel, you may show evidence that another person will cover some or all costs for your travel.

NOTE: U.S. government sponsored exchange visitor (J visa) applicants and their dependents are not required to pay application processing fees if participating in a Department of State, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), or a Federally funded educational and cultural exchange program which has a program serial number beginning with G-1, G-2, G-3, or G-7 printed on Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status. U.S. government sponsored exchange visitor (J visa) applicants and their dependents are also not required to pay applicable issuance fees.


3. Preparations for Visa Interview

During your visa interview, a consular officer will determine whether you are qualified to receive a visa, and if so, which visa category is appropriate based on your purpose of travel. You will need to establish that you meet the requirements under U.S. law to receive the category of visa for which you are applying.

Ink-free, digital fingerprint scans will be taken as part of your application process. They are usually taken during your interview, but this varies based on location.

After your visa interview, your application may require further administrative processing. You will be informed by the consular officer if further processing is necessary for your application.

When the visa is approved, you will be informed how your passport with visa will be returned to you. Review the visa processing time, to learn how soon your passport with visa will generally be ready for pick-up or delivery by the courier.


Two-year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement

When you agree to participate in an Exchange Visitor Program and your program falls under the conditions explained below, you will be subject to the two-year home-country physical presence (foreign residence) requirement. This means you will be required to return to your home country for two years at the end of your exchange visitor program. This requirement under immigration law is based on Section 212(e) of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

Two-year Home-country Physical Presence Requirement Conditions – An exchange visitor is subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement if the following conditions exist:

  1. Government funded exchange program – The program in which the exchange visitor was participating was financed in whole or in part directly or indirectly by the U.S. government or the government of the exchange visitor’s nationality or last residence;

  2. Graduate medical education or training – The exchange visitor entered the United States to receive graduate medical education or training;

  3. Specialized knowledge or skill: Skills List – The exchange visitor is a national or permanent resident of a country which has deemed the field of specialized knowledge or skill necessary to the development of the country, as shown on the Exchange Visitor Skills List. Review the Exchange Visitor Skills List 2009.

Restrictions – When you, as an exchange visitor are subject to the two-year home-country physical presence requirement, you must return to your home country for a cumulative total period of at least two years before you can do any of the following:

  1. Change status while in the United States to the Non Immigrant categories of temporary worker (H) or Intracompany transferee (L);

  2. Adjust status while in the United States to immigrant visa/lawful permanent resident status (LPR);

  3. Receive an immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate; or

  4. Receive a temporary worker (H), Intra company transferee (L), or fiancé (K) visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Waiver of Two Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement

If you are not able to fulfill the home country presence requirement, you may be able to apply for a waiver. Select Waiver of the Exchange Visitor Two-Year Home-Country Physical Presence Requirement to learn more about this requirement and how to request a waiver.


Additional Information:

  1. We cannot guarantee that you will be issued a visa. Do not make final travel plans or buy tickets until you have a visa.

  2. For information about employment, review Exchange Visitors and Employment Authorization on the USCIS website.

  3. Spouse and children

    1. Your spouse and unmarried, minor children may be able to apply for J-2 visas to accompany or join you at a later date to reside with you during your J program, if permitted on your exchange program category. While SEVIS fee payment is not required, your sponsor must issue them separate DS-2019 Forms, which are required when they apply for their visas, along with a copy of the primary visa holder’s J-1 visa and proof of relationship.

    2. Your minor children are permitted to attend school while in the United States on J-2 visas and are not required to obtain student (F) visas.

  4. Unless canceled or revoked, a visa is valid until its expiration date. Therefore, a valid U.S. visa in an expired passport is still valid. If you have a valid visa in your expired passport, do not remove it from your expired passport. You may use your valid visa in your expired passport along with a new valid passport for travel and admission to the United States.

4. Fee and Charges of U.S Student Visa This webpage lists visa application fees and other visa related fees collected by Department of State. Note that many immigration-related forms are submitted to the Department of Homeland Security’s United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and not to the Department of State. If the type of information or form you are seeking is not shown here, selectUSCIS Forms and Fees to go to the USCIS Website to review more.

Coming to the United States Temporarily – Non immigrant Visa Services

Nonimmigrant visa application processing fees are tiered, as shown below, based on the visa category for which you are applying.

Notice: Every visa applicant must pay the visa application processing fee for the visa category being applied for, unless the application fee is not required, as listed below.

Description of Service and Fee Amount (All fees = $ in US currency)

Nonimmigrant visa application processing fee (non-refundable) for all categories below

  • Non-petition-based nonimmigrant visa (except E):  $160.00

Includes (but not limited to), the following visa categories:


Visitor Visa: Business, Tourism, Medical treatment


Transiting the United States


Crew Members – Airline, Ship


Student, Academic


Media and Journalists


Exchange Visitors


Students, Vocational


NAFTA Professionals


Victim of Trafficking in Persons


Victim of Criminal Activity

  • Petition based visa categories: $190.00 

Includes these visa categories:


Temporary Workers/Employment or Trainees


Intra company Transferees


Persons with Extraordinary Ability


Athletes. Artists & Entertainers


International Cultural Exchange


Religious Worker

  1. E – Treaty Trader/Investor, Australian Professional Specialty category visa: $205.00

  2. K – Fiancé(e) or Spouse of U.S. citizen category visa: $265.00


Border crossing card fees

  1. Border crossing card – age 15 and over (Valid 10 years): $160.00

  2. Border crossing card – under age 15; for Mexican citizens if parent or guardian has or is applying for a border crossing card (valid 10 years or until the applicant reaches age 15, whichever is sooner): $17.00


Other Fees

  1. L visa fraud prevention and detection fee – for visa applicant included in L blanket petition  (principal applicant only): $500.00

  2. Border Security Act fee – for visa applicant included in L blanket petition, where petition indicates subject to fee  (principal applicant only): $2,250.00


When the Non Immigrant visa application processing fee is not required:

  1. Applicants for A, G, C-2, C-3, NATO, and diplomatic visas (defined in 22 CFR 41.26): No Fee

  2. Applicants for J visas participating in official U.S. Government-sponsored educational and cultural exchanges: No Fee

  3. Replacement of machine-readable visa when the original visa was not properly affixed or needs to be reissued through no fault of the applicant: No Fee

  4. Applicants exempted by international agreement as determined by Visa Services, including members and staff of an observer mission to United Nations Headquarters recognized by the UN General Assembly, and their immediate families: No Fee

  5. Applicants traveling to provide charitable services as determined by

    Visa Services: No Fee

  6. U.S. government employees traveling on official business: No Fee

  7. A parent, sibling, spouse or child of a U.S. government employee killed in the line of duty who is traveling to attend the employee’s funeral and/or burial; or a parent, sibling, spouse, son or daughter of a U.S. government employee critically injured in the line of duty for visitation during emergency treatment and convalescence: No Fee


Non Immigrant visa issuance fee, including border-crossing cards.

See the Visa Reciprocity Tables to find out the visa issuance fee amount, if applicable:  Fee varies (Reciprocal)

When the Non Immigrant visa issuance fee is not required:

  1. An official representative of a foreign government or an international or regional organization of which the United States is a member; members and staff of an observer mission to United Nations Headquarters recognized by the UN General Assembly; and applicants for diplomatic visas as defined under item 22(a); and their immediate families: No Fee

  2. An applicant transiting to and from the United Nations Headquarters: No Fee

  3. An applicant participating in a U.S. government sponsored program which may include applicant’s dependent spouse and children: No Fee